Teachers Strike Back

Twenty four years, sixteen percent.

Just two of the numbers bandied about in relation to New Zealand’s primary school teachers negotiations. Over two decades since they last took such action, and a pay rise request based over two years.

So far, the demand for pay has not been met and there is a large gap back to what has been offered by the ministry. There is certainly room for movement and that is what mediation and negotiation is all about, an attempt to find some middle ground both parties can commune on. It is clear teachers feel undervalued and I am not in a position to question that. Personally, I value the teachers of my children based on the development of my kids. A teachers value to me, to my family, to my kids, is based solely on how well our kids are learning, how they are growing educationally and how they are developing as young people in our community. From a parents perspective, value has nothing to do with how much a teacher is getting paid.

I understand a well paid employee, in any vocation, is a generally happier one, although cash is not a panacea. That said, I guess it is important to find out about the other complaints from teachers and their union. If you have bothered to follow the media releases, read through the stances of both sides, then maybe you have been able to form a semi educated take on the arguments and counter responses. Or not, particularly if you scroll down to comments sections, getting caught up in the vitriol and heated debate.

The voice of teachers and those who support them have been the louder, more vociferous one. There seems to be a desperate need for our teachers to dispel what they feel are a bunch of urban myths out there, based around the time and effort they apply in and around their working day. Holiday time is a big one and an apparent short working day. Perceptions which I know to be false, but I can also see as being easily validated.

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For a time I served on a school board. I felt it was important to have some investment in what is a major part of my kid’s lives, namely their schooling. After all, good or bad, vast tracks of your school years stay with you for life. During monthly board meetings I saw passion, I saw frustration, I saw desire and will and elation and disappointment and I saw people, everyday normal people, trying to do their best as part of a massive and at times seemingly unwieldy system. I was lucky, as were my two oldest girls, to be attending a great little school, in a rural environment richly supported and a vital part of a caring and involved community. The same probably can’t be said for every community and every school.

Anecdotal at best, but I observed teachers starting their day well before the first of the school buses pulled up or children started to disgorge from a series of SUV’s, people-movers and crowded hatchbacks. Board meetings aside, part timers aside, teacher aides aside, these staff members worked a full day.

The working day for a teacher is not 9-3, as some might like to think. They are there longer, a normal, full, working day and so they should. They are paid to be. Yes, staff were in the classroom over the holiday periods, term breaks there for the benefit of the children not teachers…ever seen a child at the end of a long hard term, dragging their feet to and from school, a look of thunder on their face you as a parent do your best to tip-toe around? The teachers I witnessed prepped for the coming term. No, not necessarily full days and not throughout the whole two week break. But it was rare to see any teacher show up to class empty handed or leave at the end of their day without an arm load of files and a head full of ideas and issues.

Nothing new there really, for any one person in any one job. We all put effort in, we all struggle to leave it behind us when we leave the door and we all face that in our own way. I do have some frustrations about a few demands which have arisen around teacher requests. Namely, more time away from face to face contact, the desired preparation and planning time.

My kids, as an example I can readily turn to, are home by 3pm. They walk home, having left the school gate at around 2:30pm. The school grounds might not be completely empty of kids at that point, but damn close to it. No face to face time required there. That leaves a couple of hours a day too get things done. Ten hours over the course of the week, not to mention the brief time available each and every morning.

Sure, teachers are parents too. They have lives outside of the school gate and demands on their time from their personal lives, just like everyone else. Those ten or so hours might not and will not be available all the time. Particularly if a teacher is involved in any extra-curricular stuff kids are into. Coaching, music lessons, tutoring. But, if the voluntary feel good stuff is getting in the way, then it needs to be put aside. If the extras are affecting your ability to do the core roles of your profession as a teacher, then leave it up to the parents and others who have made themselves available.

Time management. Obviously something which bugs me. Teachers asking for less contact time when all I can think, as a parent, is how to get more. Greater time and contact between my children and the people charged with educating them. To mind, that whole argument is arse-about-face. A teacher should want more and more quality time in the classroom, involved directly with the learning of the children in question. Shouldn’t they? Isn’t that what they signed up for?

Which means better resourcing. Which means a lower ratio of teachers to kids, smaller classroom sizes, greater support and backup for those at the chalkboard (yes, showing my age…I know chalk has given way to the digital age). Does it really mean Special Education coordinators (SENCO) in each and every school?

I have moaned before about a lack of solution based rhetoric in society. We blame, point fingers, highlight and show concern. We don’t offer fixes. I don’t claim to have them, but another bug is language.

Crisis? Great way to attract people to the teaching profession. And after all, wouldn’t more teachers in the classroom be the ultimate fix? I think both parties agree on that, but how to make it happen? Perhaps instead of terminology which sounds panicked, we can voice alternatives. What incentives are there to get people into teaching? And not just remuneration. Could fees be subsidised? Could there be greater cross-crediting of prior qualifications? Are we working at targeting the right members of society to look at teacher training as a viable option? Parents, returning to the workforce, older members of our workforce looking for a change, a new direction? Maybe if you are 45 you can still be eligible for assistance in the form of allowances and loans, fees subsidies, structure it how you like, if there is an agreement to train and commit as a teacher for a set period of time. Free fees if you teach for a minimum of five years?

Get places like Auckland better resourced, so teachers can manage to live and work there. Not just Auckland, but any center facing housing pressure and shortages. Our rural and country schools too. If that means pay more, then so be it. If that means chipping in to cover accommodation expenses, then cool. Incentives for qualified and experienced staff to move to the regions in the most dire need, good idea. But we need to be wary of looking into things like performance based pay scales. How a system like that would be measured I am not sure and I can’t help but feel the risk good teachers would migrate to more affluent, better placed parts of our country, is too high, leaving the areas which need those sorts of people the most, suffering more than they are already.

The above may or may not work, may not make any sense at all. Potential solutions like those, or any other, will chew into existing budgets and that means more pressure on pay scales. It means a ministry, which clearly struggles to cope at any given time already, what with all the myriad of changes in thinking around education and behaviour, cultural awareness and sensitivity and the ever changing diversity of our broader society and its future needs, is going to have a whole bunch of new hurdles thrown in front of it, all of which need to be cleared.

Our education system needs to constantly evolve and grow. From governing bodies to teachers and support staff. That growth needs to be handled in a careful and thoughtful manner and it needs to be done with sensitivity and with an eye on a mid to long term future. Too often, in all sectors of business and industry, we hear words like crisis, shortage, lack of skill or training and development. We don’t have enough truck drivers, years ago it was plumbers and try getting a builder in a hurry, finding specialists in one field or another.

If shortages in teacher numbers and those willing to enter into training has already occurred, what does that say of our future? The future for our kids, trundling off back to school tomorrow morning? The current issues will be fixed, at least patched, one way or another. But, there will be a gap and that will reflect down the track. How do we prevent it from happening again? I don’t know. Maybe, twenty four years from now and sixteen percent later, we’ll find out.

 

 

 

 

 

Be a Good Sport

The All Blacks play France at the Cake Tin tonight in their second test match up. Head high anyone?

Play hard and play fair. That was the message I received as a child growing up and learning various sports. I turned my hand to a lot of different options, from racket sports indoors and out, to water sports in and on, to all the others on muddy, frosty, grass paddocks with balls of numerous shapes and sizes. I learned to use my hands and feet and to hold sticks and to swing and hit and catch and pass. I never mastered any of it but a heap of fun trying.

‘Get into it’

‘Have a go’

All and any other cliched line Dad’s threw out there to encourage the gaggle of kids they were coaching to glory on chilly winter afternoons at poorly drained council recreation fields up and down the country to ‘Give it a crack’.

I didn’t then and don’t now, know what a crack is meant to be or how I was supposed to give one but I did understand the sentiment. The idea is to put some effort in, to apply yourself, to be a part of the team, to be involved and to do your best.

All of the above.

Let’s take a moment here, to thank all the Dads, giving up their own time to slog through the mud every Saturday morning, resisting the urge to yell out from the sideline shouts of encouragement, be one of ‘those’ fathers, taking his turn on the whistle, standing for an hour or so behind the stumps pretending he knows anything about the LBW rule.

And the Mum’s, forlornly hoping one day there will be an indoor sports venue in their town, one large enough to cope with multiple netball games, hordes of young girls sheltered from the worst of the elements as they spend winter afternoons and mornings dodging around in slippery courts in bibs and skirts. Think of all the bumps and bruises and scrapes and cuts and scratches. The tears and tantrums and fusses and fights. And that is just from the parents.

Thousands of kids giving it a crack. Those Mum’s and Dad’s are role models, the true ones of the sporting world. Personally, I have never felt just because someone is built athletically, can run and catch and pass, do it all at the same time, they are necessarily people we should, as parents, teachers and schools, the media, have our kids aspire to be like. Praise that sports-persons work ethic, their application and dedication and desire to succeed. Applaud the systems in place in many different sports and recreations which allow participants to reach pinnacles and peaks, to be at the top, the best in the world. So a thanks there too, for the administrators and managers and volunteers and everyone who contributes, often above and beyond, to make levels of success like that happen.

Sure, for every clap and shout out, there are going to be detractors. The good ole Kiwi tall poppy syndrome. I think we, as a nation, have gotten better. We a more prepared to celebrate success, the gold medalists and the big pay day professional contracts. It is no different for our All Blacks, the most high profile team, grouping of and individual sportspersons in this country.

Ryan Crotty took a dive. The guy should play football in Europe or South America. Or maybe take up a role on Broadway. He was way too convincing for Shortland Street. There, his antics wouldn’t look so ridiculous. Cane and Ofa made direct contact with the head of an opposition player and circumstances aside, should have been sanctioned, at least in the form of a penalty.

These are not the actions of role models. Heat of the moment stuff, ‘dynamic’ ‘fluid’ situations, call it what you will. I agree with the general consensus…It is a heavy contact sport and accidents are going to happen. There is no cheating, no intent. The All Blacks, Le Blue, the Kiwis, the Wallabies the Dallas Cowboys all play hard and fair. Some individuals, some teams, bend the rules, play to the letter of the law and the ref’s whistle and here we go with the cliches all over again…

It is how we, as kids, as teens and young adults, reinforced as senior representatives, are taught to play the game. Whatever that game may be. So I reckon, as media and avid sport fans, we need to not beat up on the rough stuff. By all means, legislate against the dangerous and the unhealthy, sort the rule books so the violent and the nasty is eliminated from the game and make it so the accidental, the reckless and careless actions are strongly discouraged. And then, move on.

Highlight too much of the bad and the ugly, you detract from the good. Participation in sport for our youth, particularly team sports, is a vital and healthy thing in society and needs to be nurtured, encouraged and given every opportunity to grow. It helps our kids do just that, grow. Think of all the bonds and friendships and good memories we can all take away from our time on the track, in the gym, on the pitch, the sideline, in the clubroom. Don’t forget to thank the ladies for the feed and honour the opposition for the half they contributed to the game.

Let’s instead show the good and the great and the excellent. Let’s not have photo after photo after video footage repeated daily via every media outlet imaginable showing forearms to the head, cracked cheekbones and swollen eye sockets. Mummy and Daddy aren’t going to want their precious little ones involved in all of that and sport will suffer for it. Not just contact sport, not just rugby or league. Kids love the crash and the bash of it and boys in particular, will find away to do it regardless of a contact sport like rugby. Bullrush anyone?

A controlled environment, with coaches and trainers and all the rest. Technique and back up and support and encouragement and praise. Show our young how to do it right, how to do it fairly. How to do it for the result. To win. Just not at all costs. Teach integrity. There is a culture in sport we cannot afford to lose.

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Show us the runaway tries, the behind the back passes, the banana kicks for touch. Tell us about the never say die attitudes, the ‘big engines’. Talk of the handshakes afterwards, the mutual respect given freely between two teams who have given there all, had a crack, played hard and fair.

And while we are at it, let’s keep our heads.

C’mon the All Blacks!!

(Last weeks performance lacked timing and there was punch missing. Where is Naholo? If not him, Laumape? Given it is the same squad, let’s see the likes of Squire running wider with a bit more room and freedom and the injection of Fifita, with the same remit, a little earlier. Expect a more attacking French outfit, their defense to be as resolute as it has been all season and the AB’s attempting to achieve the same hectic pace they started with, and stayed with, last weekend but add accuracy, timing and cohesiveness…AB’s by 12)

 

Ambiguity

How ambiguous, how off-hand, are you with your children? 

We all do it. And not just when dealing with our children. We obfuscate, we employ delaying tactics, we brush off and disregard and we block. In using everyday, throw away language, the potential impact of which doesn’t even really cross our minds before the words come out our mouths, we are shutting down our children with little or no thought multiple times a day.

‘In a minute.’

‘Not right now.’

‘I’ll think about it.’

It is going to be longer than a minute, if at all and you know it. Never is closer to the mark than ‘not right now’ and there is very little chance, unless you are reminded, as you probably will be, repeatedly, the idea will ever cross your mind again.

‘Maybe later’ never comes. It is a fleeting moment you abandon almost instantly in your quest to get on with a busy day which may or may not lack variety, outside of weather patterns and just when the youngest may fill his nappy. At best it is dismissive, at worst neglectful. ‘Soon’ is a long way off to a young mind, an eager and searching, inquiring mind desperate for stimulation. Folding laundry does not fixate a child’s imagination for long. All the mundane, everyday things we have to do as parents, domestic managers, child development facilitators, hold only the most fleeting point of interest for children.

‘Get out from under my feet’ is a bit of a go to for me. In my mid forties I have developed a far better sidestep than Waisake Naholo can ever hope for. The trick is not to second guess the random movements of those still learning how to operate their own feet. But in saying that I am not being dismissive. It is a command, issued for the health, safety and protection of those small enough, ignorant enough and random enough to get themselves tangled up in somebody’s legs. ‘Be careful’ are two words which fit the same category, a combination I try and avoid if possible but which do come in handy when kids are on the coffee table having a boogie to the Arctic Monkeys, crawling across the bench in pursuit of something sharp or careening down a bank at full sprint, rapidly gaining terminal velocity.

Thing is, more often than not, the little ones don’t let you forget. They don’t want to move on, get on, and damned if they are going to let you either. Children haven’t turned old before they will no longer let you off the hook so easily, when your tried and true distraction tactics begin to become nothing more than dismal failures. When your frustrations are peeked. Frazzled might be the word.

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Long before a child develops the ability to speak full sentences they have long since mastered communicating. Getting across their dissatisfaction with your desire to be doing something else, somewhere else, becomes an art form they rapidly learn and master. Grunts of displeasure, whines and screeches of frustration, attention seeking tugs on the hem of your top or bold leaps at your legs, arms wrapping hips in a toddler tackle, headbutting your genitalia in an attempt to ensure there will be no more siblings to compete with for attention. Impossible to ignore.

‘In a minute’ becomes ‘I’ll think about it’ turns into ‘We’ll see how things go.’

Still they come at you, your failure to satisfy their urging not allowed to pass without comment and ever more pressing insistence. Soon enough it is you who is frustrated and bingo, we are on the verge of argument and tears and tantrums and toys being thrown from the proverbial cot. And just think how the kids feel.

Are we really that busy, in this modern world of convenience and technological advancement, to spare a few minutes for the interests of our tamariki? Is what we are doing at any given time, in any given place, so important we can’t put a halt to it, however temporarily, to get down on our haunches and engage.

Nonsensical rambling it might be, inane nothingness which might come at you from somewhere completely random, blindsiding you with it’s sudden appearance. Whatever it is, from imaginary friends and their interactions with your child, to hands being pulled, leading you to witness something you may never fathom the meaning of, none of it is painful. There will be no pain, no hurt, you will loose nothing, no more than a few moments of your oh so precious time. In fact, the opposite might well prove truer. In the vivid, wild, rambling of your child’s mind there just might be that gem of inspiration, that moment of pure levity. Your child can inspire tears, of joy, can put a smile on an otherwise grumpy, preoccupied face, can surprise and delight and entertain with their irreverence. All of it so sweetly unintentional.

The reality is, perhaps it is best to pay more attention to their surprise, attention seeking, attacks. Rather than a frustration, the distraction can be your friend. A refreshing moment of light-hearted, low impact, vital nothingness too many of us have long since forgotten how to enjoy. The dishes can wait, the dusting too. That report will still get written, the laundry can be folded later, you can eat half an hour later without any harm to anyone. Who knows, you may learn something and you will surely recapture a little of that which you lost whenever it was you stopped acknowledging you were imagining, inventing and creating and drifting inside the wonder which is a youthful mind. Go back prior to the moment you decided you were all grown up, back to the time when the imagination ruled, when observation was a wonder, when youthful exuberance was the norm.

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If nothing else, it is usually quicker to spend that moment of time enshrined in the world of your little ones than trying to dodge, duck dive and weave your way around it, a sad attempt to avoid something which it is simply impossible to. You’ll get back to that vital whatever it was quicker than you might think and your children will think you a part of it all.

Because I said so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Challenge

It is a bit of an old adage. Too many people with their hands out, not enough with their hands up.

That saying is, unfortunately, typically true of far too many communities in this country, let alone the region I live in. So many people and groups asking for help, not helping themselves. What is worse, those who can’t even muster the gumption to ask.

Is that worse? I think, in many cases, there are groups, and by groups I mean pockets of Maori, Pacific Islanders and refugee communities, lower socio-econimc enclaves, who are either ignorant of, non-plussed by, or adverse to, the assistance of a government they do not believe in, have no faith in, or are blase about. Put that up against a system which is inherently uninformative, having so much to offer yet constantly finding ways to block and obfuscate, making access not only difficult but sometimes damn near impossible.

I hate using the term ‘system’. They are all broken and bent, systems, only as good/ bad or effective as the people operating them. The governments fault? The failing of their agencies and the staff and personnel, representing the offices charged with actioning policy and legislature? Sometimes, clearly, yes. Can we blame the departments and those who are cloistered within their Wellington-centric confines? Can fingers be pointed at policy, the interpretation and implementation thereof? Is the blame, the fault, if that is what we are seeking, one of funding? Is it a lack of understanding, a failing in qualification?

These are fundamental debates, base questions. While they are being asked, the people who need the result, those who require the outcome of a measured, thoughtful, complete and secure option, are missing out. Some choose to. They wish to have no part and are so entrenched in being ignored and ignoring, something like a Census, online or not, is irrelevant. Others will keep asking, keep pushing, keep agitating. All the while the masses will accept, ready to receive whatever meager offering is dropped, wafting like the light-weight measure it is, into their out-stretched hand.

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So many of our social watchdogs and commentators are guilty of it. I have respect for the Duncan Garner’s and Kanoa Lloyd’s of this world, all the others, whether I agree with them or not. Engaging, intelligent and apparently well informed television presenters. Trained, qualified and experienced people, a new breed in the wake of the Mike Hoskings and Paul Henry’s. They are charged with giving the masses something to think about. They attempted to do just that, to highlight and to question and to interpret and add feeling and provide understanding and in doing so, for me at least, offer an insight into the big failing in New Zealand and New Zealanders.

A while ago Lloyd sought to comment on the claim, snatched upon by the media, that the newly appointed National Party leader, is not Maori enough. Whatever that means. (I am not in a position to ask, let alone answer, what it means to be Maori, so will not even attempt to go there). She took her allotted minutes and tried to convince us we were, are, better off asking why so many Maori are reflected in our court systems, our prison populations and as our homeless, our drug dependents and our mentally unwell and all the rest.

At face value, good questions you might think. Picture any area in our society where it is not good for people to be and Maori are disproportionately represented. Kanoa Lloyd was simply asking why. Well Kanoa, I say save your breath.

We know the questions. They have been asked again and frustratingly again. They will always be asked. OK, fair enough, until the issues are fixed, let the Kanoa’s of this world have their space and time to ask, to agitate, to seek discourse and create debate. Good things, undoubtedly.  It is just I, for one am sick of hearing it.

The questions raised around the plight of Maori, particularly urban Maori, are not new. Should we go ahead and throw in all the rhetoric around Meth abuse too, while we sip our non label reds as the Chilean Chardonnay chills. Grab another craft beer and sit down for a chat. Grab a box of Lion red and kill the hours it takes for a day to pass when you don’t have a job, because there is no job. I can only hope, somewhere around the fifth or sixth stubby, someone says something, through a toothless grin, of import. I’ve heard all the questions before, heard why they are raised.

Now, I am privileged, which is not the right word, to be seeing it first hand, and still I am waiting to hear anyone come up with a solution. Because at the coal face there is so much more than just queries over an over inflated proportion of the prison population or registration on the dole. It is all the little grass roots stuff and at risk of sounding like I am firm believer in a ‘nanny state’, perhaps a few of the values of our grandparents era wouldn’t go astray.

Why are people buying pies and a bottle of coke for breakfast?

A sugar addiction maybe? It has been touted in the press, expanded upon by the experts. The answer being touted? Tax. Levies and fees and all the rest. Doesn’t work with smokes, so why is it going to work with sugar. Taxing sugar is tackling the problem backwards. Drop the taxes, the G.S.T on water and milk and veggies and fruit and if needed, subsidize the hell out of market gardens and orchards and all the rest, so their product reaches the shelves cheaper, making them more accessible.

I don’t really know. Maybe ban the operation of a pie warmer before the hour of 11am, so the crusty deliciousness that is one of New Zealand’s staple treats, isn’t available before lunch. Fizzy drinks cannot be cooled. You want a cold coke, you have to take it home and put it in the fridge. Not such a big effort but maybe on a hot day, you’ll reach for the bottled water instead. Take the enticing labels and packaging away from the ice-cream and the lollies and the fizzy, the same way it has been done for cigarettes.

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Subsidize gym membership for the obese, offer subscriptions to sports clubs and recreational facilities. Organised community activity days; nothing more complicated than a healthy food truck or two, selling CHEAP quality food and drink to a bunch of people kicking a ball around, throwing a frisbee, swinging a bat, building kites, fishing, surfing, dancing, riding bikes, yoga…whatever, just being active and doing so in an encouraging and nurturing environment. Even have instructors and coaches involved, paid professionals, offering experience and expertise.

Maybe these are expensive options and maybe there will be difficulties in certain communities. But where there is a problem, there is always a solution and it is the very same people in those communities who will identify those issues and solve them.

I have heard it said too often it starts with our kids, the idea if we can get them on-board, what they learn, the right things and the good things, then they take it home and the learning is passed on to their parents and wider whanau.

Bollocks. It is up to us, as parents and as adults, as councils and governments and all the agencies thereof, to make the change, shift the thinking. It is up to us to lead, show the next generation where we have gotten it so wrong and then help them be part of the fix.

I am a chubby, unfit guy. I like a beer and a pie as much as the next person. More than many. I don’t exercise and while my diet isn’t atrocious, it isn’t great either. I am lazy, look for the easy way out and can get too comfortable on the couch for long periods of time. There are four kids in this house who are fit and slim and energetic, blessed with youthful metabolisms which keep them firing on all cylinders. I could take a lot of lessons from them for sure. And I could sure as hell lead by example a lot more too.

Before I can do any of that, I need to stop asking the same questions over and over again and start providing answers. Because, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we have just as many of them, the answers, as we have questions.

A healthy body leads to a healthy mind. A good catchphrase. Healthy, happy, content and engaged people don’t end up in prison. They don’t join a dole queue. Fully functioning, supported members of society contribute and participate. Something we all need to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donations Gratefully Accepted

There is more suck in an octogenarian with pneumonia, than there is in our vacuum cleaner.

A fourteen year old school boy pulls harder than our car. More cushioning on a fat girl’s thighs than on our sofa.

Perhaps I am being a bit harsh on the sofa. It is lasting pretty well, considering the inconsiderate attentions of four children and a Dad, who falls asleep there after too many attempts to sit through late night rugby games he isn’t invested in or watch movies which struggle to hold his interest.

I’m sure you  get the point. We are at the stage in life where it all needs an update. From the knife set which will no longer hold an edge, the mixer which smokes every time it is operated, the rusted this, bent and barely operational that. Almost everything we have, the bigger ticket items, were purchased all those years ago when Wifey and I first set up house. We met in London, a story in that chance encounter in itself, while both on our Big O.E’s. The two of us eventually arrived back in New Zealand with literally little more than packs on our backs. Starry-eyed lovers, keen to get about setting up our love nest.

Credit this, hire purchase that. Tables and chairs and couches and desks and beds and mattresses and a car and dish racks and utensils and towels and pillow cases and some of it wears out in time, replaced as a natural course of things.

The bits and the pieces. Easy enough, grab it at the supermarket or the Warewhare or a seemingly never ending Briscoes sale. But you don’t go out and just grab on the fly the dining set you have outgrown, which happens to be occurring at the same time as the car is dying. In collusion with the television and the sometimes functional but no longer loud sound system. The lawn mower smokes like a reggae musician and drops more oil than a careless Saudi sheikh.

Our bed squeaks an unjustifiable amount given the lack of activity it receives.

I’m not bad with a spanner, can handle a screwdriver. A mixture of brute force and ignorance can get you further than you might think. Coercion and patience saw a washing machine limp along years passed it’s used by date, but I can’t make the dryer warm. Well maybe I could, I know it is just the element after all. But, as much as I fancy myself with a tool or two, I am better suited to pulling stuff apart as opposed to putting it back together.

So here we are, surrounded by next to worthless junk. A pile of virtual crap best loaded into a trailer rapidly succumbing to the ravages of time, and hauled off to the tip.

The big ticket items. As decrepit and broken as the guy who owns them. Better management when we set up would’ve meant we might not be in this spot right now, drip feeding non-existent savings into fanciful ideas we can have bigger and better. Or even just operational. A chest freezer to replace the dead, smelly one. A fridge we can actually fit a week or two worth of groceries for six in. Time to rebuild and restructure. A daunting prospect.

Wifey earns well and we don’t have the expenses many others face. I’m the day care, though quite possibly I come at a much higher cost than your average Kindergarten. Our lifestyle is far from extravagant, because it can’t be. As good as the dollar my wife slaves for is, with a crew of mouths to feed, the bills we all have to dig deep for, we are a hand to mouth, pay cheque to pay cheque operation.

We don’t have 9 cents a litre to spare.

 

oDKZIaq

 

 

 

Long Time No See

A lot has gone on of late and not a thing has changed. 

The sun is still shining.

I am starting to wonder if it will ever stop, but these last few mornings mist has been touching the still, glassy waters of the mighty Hokianga Harbour. It is almost impossible to drag your eyes away from the dreamy views sitting right at our back doorstep.

But dragged away I have been. All the things so mundane, so everyday, have proven the drag. Then the rounds of illness and poor health. Top all that off with a bout of malaise and a thriving streak of laziness and here we are. So far down the track with barely a word said. I even flirted with the idea of getting a job!

Nothing much has inspired me of late and there hasn’t been a great deal to rile me either.

Apart from ten million dollar roundabouts.

Shane Jones and his billion dollar regional fund. As cynical as I am, jaded and mistrusting, I am sure there will be many positive outcomes from the government opening its wallet in places long overdue a spend. I sincerely hope a fund of that magnitude, earmarked for projects designed to breathe live into struggling communities, will find it’s way, most likely in dribs and drabs, to the areas it can be of most benefit.

I don’t know. How about a footpath? Something my kids can utilise on their way to and from school. They don’t need a roundabout at the cost of millions, to satisfy tourists and the fancy of a white middle-class who surely can’t be that inconvenienced.

Even over this side, millions earmarked for a cultural center in Opononi. Cool, anything and everything to celebrate the rich cultural history of this part of the world, so entrenched as it is in the birth of this nation both Maori and European. It is vitally important the local populace, the wider New Zealand community and yes, tourists, have the opportunity to be immersed in our wide and varied history of settlement as much as is possible.

No argument there, right?

Except when you start to make comparisons with the things this community, this region and so many more like it, are missing.

Yes, footpaths. Playing fields and sports clubs. Playgrounds and recreational reserves. Roads free of potholes and verges cleared , adequate street lighting and domains for the people who live here to congregate and meet and grow as a community. All manner of infrastructure, maintained and supported and allowing for growth and a sense of well being to battle the stagnation that seems to hang like a pall over much of rural, regional New Zealand.

I know much of this falls on regional and local body authorities. Here too, Iwi need to make their presence felt. The thing is, with minimal population bases, there is only so much such bodies can do. Certainly, there seems to be a lack of motivation to do much and not a great deal of desire to commit to options which may hit their bottom lines long term. Understandable maybe. Disappointing and short sighted certainly.

Fair to say if all those bits and pieces were of real concern, we would not be living here. Somewhere more metropolitan, housing the type of extra curricular stuff you would expect from city living. So eventually we won’t be. Living here. We will be forced to move on, so we can better cater to the ever expanding curiosity of our kids.

We are blessed we are able to so. My wife has a career path she can follow and yes, if I must, I will return to work. We will, particularly me, be sacrificing lifestyle, not to mention turning our back on a community desperately in need of the likes of my wife and our beautiful children sticking around. People like my wife, in her role, can shape and influence, to a degree. People like our tamariki are the future, of that there is no question. They are the ones who will inherit and the ones we will have to pass responsibility onto.

So come on Shane. Come on Labour. Help us leave something worthwhile. Something tangible, things which will mold and shape and guide and influence and prosper. It starts with footpaths, a route tamariki can place their feet on and begin their journey.  Put the dollars into encouraging community involvement, driving progress and parenting change.

Sports clubs and the facilities which go with them. Fairs and fetes and jamborees and galas and exhibitions and all things cultural and festive. Maybe a new roof on the community hall, maybe a repair to a boat ramp, street lighting, parking, beach side bbq areas, sealed roads…all things locals can highlight and get involved in.

How about state sponsored beach cleanups? What if communities were armed with the equipment, courtesy of the government, to set about cleaning up their own backyards so to speak? Give a bloke a weed-eater, a few litres of petrol and a date. See you there mate, down where all that Pampas is growing…all that gorse all that broom all that elephant grass all that sycamore all that whatever it happens to be and whatever it is needed to get rid of it…knapsacks and sprayers and P.P.E and boots and overalls. Most important, all that know how and a little bit of motivation.

I guess I am saying let’s put the money into pride. Let’s invest in hope. How about we give the regions a chance at the same level of comfort and convenience, or close to it, as they do in the urban centers. Making life easy, easier at least, makes for better chances, better option taking and decision making. Lets not put too much money into going around in circles.

Then maybe, our tamiriki can have their minds on their futures. Not on where they are putting their feet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La la la

You can say everything needed with la la la. As long as you mean it.

I sat myself down on occasion of late, diligently displaying the best of intent. However, while the day gets warmer, muggier and eventually wet, I realise I needn’t sweat. Even as I sit here chaffed and dripping.

But enough imagery of a chubby, balding, 40 something bloke wallowing in pools of his own drenching. I was wanting to, as I swam the pond of sweated quagmire, put something out there others might want to read. Something light and comical, or satirical, or darkly observant, witty and wordy. Perhaps a challenging blog, striking at the virtuous core of a middle New Zealand, or prodding those below to rise up. Maybe I could open the shutters on the cloistered, but sweetly air-conditioned, non-sweaty one percent, an expose so shocking, so revealing my balding mug, sweated brow and all, will most likely feature on Time Magazine.

Flustered and flummoxed. Like a middle aged woman, recently divorced, spying her first ever male stripper at her nieces hen’s night. Hot and wet. The weather has everyone a little frazzled, a fine sheen of ‘Christ when is it gonna stop’ smeared across each and every brow. Today is a blazing glory, but does that mean I am blazing with it. If I couldn’t manage an oppressive pall over my masses of followers and associated readers, then how am I going to leave vapour trails of glory across azure skies?

I’m not. Plain and simple, I don’t need to have my name in lights, my words written in the sky. I don’t blog for fame and fortune and I don’t seek notoriety.

I certainly could. There are plenty of subjects, big and small I have decided, since I began this caper, to intentionally neglect. There are issues, from controversial to first world, localised idiosyncrasies or a splayed big picture problem, all of which I have left by the wayside, as I rocket through the world of home husbandry. Even as paradise surrounds, the raw reality of the big bag world never fails to present.

Our stunningly gorgeous location may look the part from the inside of the window pane. Looking in can be a different story. My wife, privileged to have unfettered access to peoples homes, an intimate months long snap shot of their lives, can come home with horrendous tales of the things, the situations, the people, she encounters.

At the small local school, yet to be treated to the modern idea of how a school should look and feel, thankfully, my kids have encountered racism. Mild, lower end of the scale stuff and technically, reverse. Yes, that is right, our sweet and innocent little whities have been treated differently, adversely, because of the lack of colour in their skin. There has been bullying, particularly directed at our eldest, because she is a cool kid, a popular addition to the place. Jealously has reared it’s ugly head and she has been shunted and shunned.

No biggy. We worked through it. People concerned were open and honest and proactive. That doesn’t take care of the proliferation of weeds, noxious and invasive.

The neighborhood and indeed the greater region, is strewn with Elephant Grass and Wild Ginger. There is the obligatory Gorse and Blackberry and wilding Pines and there are flame trees, with their thorny warning. These plants line broken footpaths, a drainage swale full of stagnant water, battling for supremacy against escapee bamboo. Verges are infrequently mowed, if ever, sprayed quarterly at best…which is worse.

Poke your head into the scrub, to confirm that identifiable object is in fact the discarded mattress you thought it might be. Cars break down and are burnt, shunted off the side of the road, to rust where the paint has been scorched free. Stray dogs take care of most of the rubbish, house hold disposables, that don’t make collection.

Have I painted a pretty enough picture of paradise yet? Yes, I can go for a fish basically from my doorstep. But I can’t eat the shellfish and sometimes they tell me I can’t even swim. That information, courtesy of a randomly placed, faded yellow sign, too small to garner a great deal of attention, does not go down well with my kids. I can bundle those same kids in the car and drive us all to some of the most picturesque, uninhabited, un-visited, coastal and forested spots of beauty and cultural significance.

The roads are bumpy, winding, tight and skinny and bouncy and unsealed and potholed and generally no exit. Just the way I like them. Many tourists don’t seem to be so fond. Can you pick the ones who have traveled the east coast first, the Bay of Islands, with all it’s grey retiree dollar and escapee Aucklander investment? All their vehicles are registered, warranted and are road worthy.

So do I get controversial? Tell a joke or two, to lighten some shock tactics? Do I mine the depths of substance abuse, wreaking stumbling havoc on a community? Do I battle the abusers, both of those same said substances and the men and women abusing each other and the brood of children they have created together. Do I stand up and yell it, the wrongs that I see being perpetrated, the often harrowing results of which can bee witnessed on the worn features of my tired wife at the end of a working day.

We can be a cynical bunch in this country, but we do like a laugh. We will happily poke fun at ourselves and others, often liberal with the threat of offence. But, as I have said before, offence is taken, not given and if you are offended by the things you see and hear, perhaps it is because those things; that abuse, that degradation and poverty and systemic failure, trouble you and the infinity pool world you like to think you swim in.

Sometimes, when you are hot and flustered, flummoxed and frazzled, light hearted poking and prodding just doesn’t cut it. And who needs another white, middle-class, in this case un-educated, keyboard warrior telling it like it is. For a start I don’t really know. I am a kept man after all. And sadly, people like me don’t really want to know. We may snigger and snicker and righteously comment our agreeance, but we offer nothing in the way of solution. So I for one, should shut up. No stomping and shouting, no raising a grumpy, disenfranchised placard waving mob, Hoki Hubby at the head, megaphoned voice waxing lyrically poetic, the strain of tortured passion ringing from my lungs.

Instead I sip a commercially produced craft beer, meat sizzling and spitting on a BBQ over looking the water from our habour side deck, women inside making salads, 90’s alt-rock backing up the waffle I share with my council of local whities, putting the world and it’s woes to rights on the back of an unlabeled red wine or two, a toke here and there, while our young men are killing themselves. We are all killing each other every time we pop out for a drive and we are ignoring the mentally ill, in the hope they will go away.

They will.

One by sad, miserable, lost, disconsolate one. Cracks in systems, as wide and deep as the holes and dips and splits in State Highway 12. Not swallowing them whole. Nothing that comforting. Like a cat, the mentally unwell are toyed with a little first, teased, dangled.

I can smoke a hooter and get quietly pissed under a sun umbrella, kids streaming around me, confident in the knowledge we will not be visited by an agency, a service. People like us don’t get visits from units like that. We don’t need it. Our lives and those of our children might be mildly dysfunctional, but who’s isn’t? Local body authorities are not going to trim the verges at the top of our drive, regional administrators are not going to monitor those polluting our waters. Central bureaucrats are not got to fill the pot holes, feed and house the poor, clothe them and protect them from the elements, treat their illnesses and educate them, detox them, unify and strengthen them. So each and everyone of us appears to be on our own.

And if we are all alone, then we are all in it together. Aren’t we?

So I will sit here and sing la la la. All the while hoping there is someone out there with greater, more in-depth, more analytical lyrical content to offer. The same old chorus I can do, like everyone else, members of a mass choir. If the western Mid North is the tune, the Hokianga the verse, then who is going to play the lead break?

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Boss Baby

Is it possible to rule the roost and rule the country? Our Prime Minister thinks so.

Jacinda Adern is clearly a very ambitious women. She has become the darling of the political world, both nationally and around the world, in relatively rapid time. Her rise through the Labour Party ranks may not have been as meteoric as the media might have us all believe, but her ascendancy to the top job, elected or not, came on a rocket-ship.

And thus, Jacinda Adern was thrust into the limelight. Prime Minister. Leader of a political party, leader of a nation. Our nation. My country and the one I am raising four children to live, love, grow, work, fade and die in.

Now our Prime Minister and her First Man, Clarke Gayford, will shortly be doing just the same; raising a child to grace these shores with it’s beautiful presence. Congrats and all that are due. Never mind whether it is appropriate or not for the leader of a nation to be taking some time out for the birth of a child. Don’t worry over the rights and wrongs of not informing the populace, effectively her employers, of any pending pregnancy.

Adern will stand by her right not to have to divulge that information and on principal, such a stand has to be accepted and applauded. She must have faced quite the dilemma, discovering her pregnancy at a time when the political whirlpool was in vortex, sucking everything and everyone in, as the last election seemed to do. She made her call, it can’t be changed now and to my mind, Mark Richardson’s abilities as a clairvoyant aside, the point is kind of moot.

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Richardson got lambasted in all this, complete with stern, unhappy teacher face and waggling finger, and while it is important to avoid the temptation to make cricket analogies, it seems our First Man has been left out of the playing XI all together.

Clarke Gayford should be offended . Miffed at the least. The question keeps getting raised, time and again, in our mainstream media, in opinion pieces and blogs, in twitter rants and wherever…will the Prime Minister will struggle to do both jobs.

Damn right she will. She is clearly an ambitious and extremely hard working woman and must come with the verve, drive and energy required to get to the position she is in. It is going to take all of that and more, to get through the next year or so from here, relatively incident free.

But, I ask from the cloistered confines of full time fatherhood, why is it we seem to be neglecting, no…failing to herald, Clark Gayford’s role in this?

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Hasn’t the man put his hand up, stating his intended lead role in the raising of the Clarke/Jacinda bub? Are his abilities so doubted we have to question his wife and hers?

Let’s get real here, it ain’t easy raising a child, no matter who you are, what gender you have assigned yourself (that’s how it’s done these days isn’t it?) and certainly no matter what you do for a living. I don’t imagine the Clarke/Ardern household is struggling financially, I can’t see them being under a great deal of pressure in providing all that is needed to give their little one every opportunity. I would also like to think they have a nurturing, close and supportive wider family and social network. Our nations Prime Minister will not be flying solo.

And neither will  Clarke. If nothing else, a rapt nation will be kept well and truly over informed on the progress of bubs, Mum and yes, maybe, just maybe, Dad will get a mention too. Breakfast show TV will be all over it, Mark Richardson or not. But in reality, this baby is going to spend the first few years of it’s little life, essentially without a strong Motherly influence.

Adern will be busy running the nation, a task I am sure does not leave a huge amount of time for full nappies and rolling over and sitting and those all important first steps. Not to mention teething. I wonder how much time it leaves for breast feeding. Are we going to see our P.M. with a baby on the breast in parliament? Not for the first time and bloody good to see being accommodated and readily accepted, just as it should be.

So, to my mind, there is no question of whether or not Jacinda Adern will be able to cope, juggling motherhood and the leadership of this nation. She is only going to be doing the one job full time. The one with the paperwork and the negotiating and the press conferences and the pressure and stresses. The pressure and stress her husband will be under are far different, but you sure as hell won’t catch this guy belittling them.

The real debate is who is going to be working the hardest. I reckon I know the answer.

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IRRELEVANT, IRREVERENT.

Not so long ago I started to question my relevance. 

 

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I don’t know if that is a middle-aged, life in crisis thing, or not. Technically my middle age, according to my demographic, slipped by, virtually unnoticed, some years ago. As it stands, I do not own a red convertible sports car and am not dating a pretty blonde, twenty years my junior. It rains too much for a convertible and I am already married to a blonde. Yes, she is still pretty.

Is the word ‘still’ a mistake there?

The thing is, who would I be trying to prove my irrelevance, or otherwise, to? I am not sure. Why it is I felt the need to muse over my relevance at all, I am also not certain.

I have long held the base idea, or opinion, we are all, as humans, here to do the exact same thing every other creature on the planet is trying to achieve. We are here to procreate, in order to continue and possibly advance the populace of said creature, us included. After that deed is done, we die.

Pretty simple really. What each and every creature gets up to in the interim, between procreating and dying, is a very personal thing, but there seems to be a base. It kind of boils down to eating the little guy, all the while trying to avoid being eaten by the bigger guy. Because you are never the big guy.

So we mate, we kill and/or be killed and we die. For all the micro-organisms, up to the alpha predators, it is more or less the same. Only the time frame is the great variance. A life time can be measured in hours to days, to weeks then months and years.

I stopped myself about there. The thought processes got too big, too involved, too dramatic and not, really, all that relevant. The way my brain works, or fails to as the case may be, involves a great deal of tangents and off shoots. A singular focus is not a strong point of mine.

It is for a Shark. For an Echidna. Eat, fuck and die, more or less in that order, but things can be adjusted to suit. The shark and the echidna do not share a coffee or a beer and question their shared relevance or meaning. They do not attend lectures on the subject and philosophise over their place in things. They do not star gaze and design space craft and satellites and a giant telescope to try and work out what is beyond. The Echidna looks for bugs. His search is for sustenance. His quest is to not be the food source for something else. The shark takes a bite and if he likes the taste, swallows it down. His quest is for the same thing, sustenance. The shark, alpha predator that he is, gets to go about his business in a slightly more blase fashion, after all a shark doesn’t have to watch his back the same way we have to in the big, wide and deep ocean that is the world we live in.

The cynic in me has long since decided there doesn’t actually have to be any ‘meaning’ to life. Let’s face it, there probably isn’t. If you spend too long wondering about the why, searching for the meaning of your existence, then there is probably something seriously lacking in your life. Unless of course, you are paid to do so and if that is the case, good score, landing a job like that. We all think. Earning a living doing so is bonus territory for sure.

Sitting around philosophising, theorising, musing, is a good way to let it all, whatever your all might be, slip by almost completely unnoticed. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of cliches out there about not seeing wood for trees. Other ones which escape me right now.  How easy would it be though, to ponder the day away, troubling over what it means to live a day, only to realise you haven’t lived it at all. Merely breathed your way through it.

Of course there is the other end of the spectrum. Everything and every one is on a spectrum these days and I figure in order to be on a spectrum, it needs two ends. It needs to end. There are a heap of folk out here who don’t put enough thought in. Perhaps they are the blase ones, though I tend to label them-because we all have a label-ignorant.

The great unwashed. Sounds good, even if it isn’t appropriate to what I am driveling on about. Just consider for a moment, all the people out there so dead set keen on convenience they can no longer cook properly. They heat and re-heat. All those who can’t tend a garden because they have never, really, set foot in one, let alone grow and nurture their own slices of nature. Fat, balding, hairy middle aged men (yes I realise I just described myself) who haven’t seen the light of day, apart from the assault of sun catching them as they waddle between door and car, car and door. Online lives playing out nightly, addictively, wanking themselves silly to the digital portrayal of someone most likely just down the street, who is in reality another balding, middle-aged waste of oxygen living in his mothers basement. At least in parts of this country, sad fatties still make it to the pub, guzzling their way through too many diabetes inducing beers and pies, ogling the girl behind the bar as if one day she might even acknowledge their existence.

Then there are those too lazy to manage even that much. Can’t make it to the pub, because leaving the house is a chore, let alone interacting with the world at large. Anxious people, depressed people, kids with A.D.H.D and adults with A.D.D. and whole populaces with labels attached to justify their inability to fit. To sanctify their inherent laziness.

I get anxious trying new things, testing myself and my preconceived ideas of what my limits might be. Doing so can bring on an anxiety disorder. Or is that just fear, just uncertainty, just caution. Am I just getting nervous?

Sometimes,  I struggle to concentrate. Occasionally the task at hand struggles to hold my attention, or more accurately, I struggle to give my attention to the task at hand. Just now I faded off, played a game briefly, gazed out the window, listened to one of the dogs licking itself, back-dropped by the morning tweet and twitter of birds and achieved a whole lot of nothing. There was a deficit there, briefly, in my attention.

A quick read of the above and it is clear I am unwell. I have an illness, or two, or three, perhaps a whole gamut. I am mentally diseased. But fear not. Someone ‘has been there’ and will proceed to tell me all about and then, quickly, before I can object, tel me how to fix it.

And, of course, there is a P.C pill which will mend all my woes. Off I will go, rattling on Ritalin, cruising on Fluoxetine or Citalopram. Washing it all down with bottles of cheap vino, my middle-aged, suburban, white middle-class lost dream drowned out and watered down, a malaise mixed with early season new potatoes. Wait, that’s mayonnaise.

Is there a pill for cynicism? Is there a quick fix, one stop shopping, chemical solution to the plodding monotony which can be our existence? Yes, good people, there is. Alcohol. Right there is the socially acceptable option.

I choose to shy away from that stuff, for the meantime at least. I have been, and will be so again, quite the fan of chemical options. But for now, I will opt to live my life vicariously, getting my thrills and spills, action and inertia, through my kids. Ride all their ups and their downs, live their highs and battle their lows. I will yell from the sideline, whistle and cheer too loud at the concert, applaud their successes and boo those that stand in their way. I will give my all, so that they, all bloody four of them, may get their all

That right there, is my relevance.

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Labour of Love

I’m a Dad. A Father, a parent a caregiver.

That is who I am, kind of the thing which defines me, for the meantime at least.

I am the ‘go to’ in the household, the term I like to use to describe my part in the family dynamic. It is also the driving influence behind this blog, why I am here at this keyboard and hopefully, what has you fixed to the screen of whatever medium it is you have chosen in order to get your Hoki Hubby fix.

The set up in our household is exactly, more or less, how we have chosen it to be. The decision to have me at home was driven by a number of factors, ranging from emotional to financial.

It is no secret and no shock to my pride as a male, that my wife has the capacity to out earn me. At least in the space of a 40hr working week. So right there is a good piece of reasoning as to why it would be her that sought to fill the coffers first and foremost. Balance that with the cost of childcare and it is not hard to see why I have remained out of the workforce for a while.

When I was working, when my two eldest were just the two, I saw bugger all of them. The nature of what I have done with my working years has often meant early starts, followed by long days. Tired and hungry, I would get home in time to drag the kids from the bath, dine with them if I was lucky, then kiss them good night. If that is, I didn’t fall asleep before them. Nodding off half way through story time was not unusual.

So we made the call, Dearest and I, to reassess where we were at the time. As a family, as a nucleic unit. Back then we were both self-employed and while in general that wasn’t an issue, every now and then it blew up in our faces. If hadn’t been for an incredibly understanding and accommodating mother, the wheels could well have come off.

Like I say, in general, we coped just fine. So did the kids. But it was a toll we were paying, me in particular. I was struggling to justify the decision to breed, given I was rarely afforded the time to see my off-spring, let alone be an active and captivated participant in their lives. So we upped stakes.

We did our due diligence, looked around at things and into things. We wanted what everyone wants; a modicum of income, a lifestyle. We wanted that balance everyone seeks. When we found something we could agree on, we latched onto it and have never looked back.

Doing so meant big changes in how we operated as a household and as individuals within that dynamic. On a personal level, so many new and exciting opportunities have been afforded to me. Yes, I have sacrificed too, we all continue to do so.

What Dearest and I never gave up on was the right to what we saw as best by our family. We made a series of decisions and moves that suited us, the kids and the way we intended to raise them. These decisions were based on everything that makes us the people we are; our own childhoods, our experiences both individually and shared, our educations and opinions and attitudes.

All those things are ours. They are peculiar to us. There is nothing special, or different about Dearest and I and nor is there anything weird or odd. We are just like you and you are just like us and we are all different. Yes, I am confused too.

When we made our call to leave Dunedin, our home up until then, and to leave behind the way we had been living our lives, the choices we were making were talked over and discussed. And not just among ourselves. I spoke to Mum, to mates, Dearest did the same.  They agreed or they didn’t. I don’t really recall there being any great debate. It wouldn’t have mattered a blind bit if there was, for as much as I love and cherish all the people important to me, the decision was ours to make and ours alone.

Not the imprint of our parents idea of how things should be done. Not the result of a survey of friends opinions. Not a decision made by a Doctor or any one in any profession.

Except for politicians.

Congrats to our new government on their achievement. Not quite how I envisaged the election result panning out, but I voted for change and I, along with every New Zealand citizen, got just that.

Extending Paid Parental Leave is a good thing, a real and tangible positive move in the right direction. Still a long way from a full year, something I think would be hugely beneficial, but hey, small steps. But why I ask, as a parent and a male one at that, stop there?

Why has the Labour government decided I don’t have the right to be a paid parent too. And when I say too, I mean as well. Why is only the one parent eligible?

The development of a bond between Mother and new born child is readily accepted as vital. Who could disagree with that? So why is the idea that a bond formed between Father and child so readily dismissed?

I say father, as it is most likely Dads who will miss out by the new governments decision not to allow both partners the option to take shared time away from work when their lives are joined by that of another, namely that of their new born. And I don’t get it.

Why can’t a couple of weeks be taken together? If it means dropping two of those paid weeks off, making it twenty-four, then where is the issue, if that is the choice a family unit decides to take? There are all sorts of permutations available, to make this kind of base policy suit all those that it may affect. Say the total was 12 months, why couldn’t it be six months off each? like a prison sentence, served concurrently, or stacked. Why not both parents at once, for all of that six month period, instead of the one parent for twelve?

So why the dictatorial, ‘nanny state’ approach? I am no economist, no accountant, no financial guru, or numbers whiz kid. I am no policy analyst either. You don’t have to read far to see that happy and healthy parents raise happy and healthy children and happy and healthy people, are productive. Parents out of the workforce for a period of time, prove to be better for an economy, rather than a detriment.

I fancy myself as a pragmatic and practical person. I also consider myself as an individual, one that chooses to share my life with another, mostly like-minded, individual. It just so happens, my partner in life has some quite extensive training, experience, understanding and yes, strong opinions, on the mother and child bond.

It starts with skin to skin contact and that first latch. And all the other, warm fuzzy stuff. It starts by looking that moist, wrinkled, brand new creature in the eye and falling instantly, unerringly, forever in love. An incredibly important step for everyone involved. Obviously, it isn’t as simple as all that, certainly not for every birth experience and it most certainly doesn’t end there.

I am left wondering where the motivation comes from, behind the decision to deny a clearly progressive step forward. A look at long term family welfare can’t be the motivator. Over worked enough aren’t we, in this country, without added to the stresses of longer hours, for the duration of the single income period. Take a break, just when things in life are getting more hectic, when those around you need more support, your loved ones, in need of more nurturing and care? I don’t think so. And neither do the Labour government.

A question of cost? Like I have said, there are plenty of options to mitigate further expenditure. But, what price do you put on happiness? And what is the cost of freedom of choice? I would suggest the cost of being unhappy and of lacking the freedom to make your own choices in life, is far greater.

 

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